Volunteering at the Detroit Marathon

Today I had the honor of being a bike escort for a hand cyclist (wheeler) in the Detroit Marathon. That means I got to ride my mountain bike along the 26.2 mile course that winds through downtown Detroit, over the Ambassador Bridge, through Windsor, Ontario, back into the USA through the tunnel, more through the streets of Detroit, around Belle Island, and then across the finish line. This was my third year in a row of having this privilege, and this experience was much different than the first two. 

Two years ago I was paired with a 22 year old veteran who didn’t even know how long a marathon was. He pushed very hard through the first half, and I remember him asking me how many miles a marathon was when we were around mile 15. He slowed down after that, thankfully! It was hard to keep up, but manageable.

Last year I rode with a 17 year old girl. She had done many races and was very pleasant to ride with. I think we finished in around 2 hours and 45 minutes. Still a work out, but very enjoyable.

This year, I was assigned a 61 year old gentleman who competes in many races and does the Detroit Marathon every year. He had reported to the organizer that he would finish in about 2:15, but when I met him this morning he told me he hoped to be just under 2 hours. I was nervous. I haven’t ridden my bike much at all this summer, and 26.2 miles is a long ways to ride my mountain bike at a consistent 13+ miles hour with no training.

So, when I spoke to him one last time at the start line he told me that he’d prefer that I ride behind him and he’d give me a wave if he needed anything. This made me feel a little better. All I had to do was keep him in sight so that I could see if anything went wrong. 
Photo
And then it was time to go. Instantly, 40+ wheelers and 40+ cyclists began moving forward at full speed. It’s like this every year, and normally everyone settles into a manageable pace and spreads out. Well, this year, my guy did not settle into what was a manageable pace for me. I spent the first 6 miles pedaling with all of my might. I literally thought I might vomit and I’m pretty sure I peed my pants a little. Yes, it was that bad. I could see him the whole time, but I could not catch him. 
Finally, on the way up the Ambassador Bridge I caught up with him and joked that I wasn’t going to be of any use to him if he didn’t let me catch up! He laughed. And then it was time to fly down the other side of the bridge, where once again, I couldn’t keep up. I was back to riding my heart out and feeling like I was going to puke. As we passed a slower guy who was escorted by a man on a road bike, he asked if I wanted to switch wheelers. Yes, please. 
Ahhh. For a few moments I was with someone that I could keep up with. I started talking with him casually, and then all of a sudden he told me that he was hoping to finish around 1 hour and 40 minutes and he needed to speed up. NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Panic. Mode. I rode with him for as long as I could handle it until a floating escort on a road bike saved me and took over. 
So, I was about 1/2 way through the ride and I no longer had anyone to ride with. I started feeling like a total slug and wondering why I had gotten up at 4:00am to come down and “help” out when I was helping NO ONE. I kept trying to ride at a pretty fast speed, hoping that maybe some of the wheelers ahead of me would begin to slow in the second half and I could catch back up. I was riding through the streets of Detroit at 9:00am on a supported race course ALONE. Literally alone. There weren’t any runners around yet. There were no wheelers in sight. It was just me. Volunteers at aid stations gave me odd looks and I just smiled as I rode by. I felt like I could drink a gallon of water, but felt too foolish to stop and get a drink when I wasn’t even with a racer!
Just as I was having another moment of “What am I doing out here?”, a disheveled looking spectator yelled out, “Congratulations, Super Hero!” I smiled and thanked her. (I think maybe she had super powers and was able to see my invisible cape!!!) She got me out of my funk and I started to just enjoy the moment. I was lucky enough to be riding the course on a beautiful morning. I meant to help out, it just hadn’t really worked out that way.

So, that’s how my ride went. Occasionally I would take breaks and wait for other riders to catch up and ride with them for a while. I even saw the one Detroit Police Officer that I know, and stopped to chat with her for a few minutes. It was a great morning. But it was not the morning that I expected.

Sometimes things don’t go how you think they will, and it takes a while to realize that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. It just means different. That was me this morning. It took me a while to get over the fact that this year’s volunteering experience was not going to be the same as it was the last 2 years. But once I got over it I was able to really enjoy my morning ride.

Change your thinking

Be Excited.

Last night as I sat at the kitchen table helping my boys make rubber band bracelets, I was feeling a little mopey about the monotony of my daily routine throughout the week. There isn’t much that I enjoy about emptying backpacks, reading notes, filling out papers and forms, making dinner, cleaning up dinner, packing lunches, doing laundry, setting out clothes…and on and on. It’s tiresome. And boring. And blah.

But this morning I woke up excited. The reason? I have an hour in my schedule today after work and before I pick my kids up that I get to do whatever I want. And do you know what I decided to do with that hour? I packed a bag with my running gear and I’m going to go for a run! 

Now, you might be wondering why this is so exciting. Well, let me tell you. First, it’s really hard to get out the door in the morning on time. And today I was not only on time, but I also put dinner in the crock pot before I left, AND I packed my running gear! The last two Tuesdays I had every intention of packing my stuff, but I didn’t remember it until I was half way to work. Once I leave the house without running gear, that one hour of “me” time that I get on Tuesdays cannot be used for running because it would be wasted driving all the way home to get my stuff. So, I am giving myself a little pat on the back just for remembering my running clothes.

Next, I’m excited that I’m excited to run today! HA! I do love to run, but all days are not created equally when it comes to being motivated to do so. But today, I am thankful that my mind and body agree that it’s the perfect day to get out there after work and hit the pavement (or the trails…not sure yet!). And I just know that after my run, I’ll have more energy and motivation to complete the evening’s monotonous tasks that will be waiting for me.

One of my favorite little says is, “Wake up and be awesome.” And today, I think that’s definitely on my “To Do” list!

 
today i am excited about everything

 

The Best Version of You

Today was my first run since the 50K. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not very good at feeling motivated to work out when I’m not training for a race. So, last week when I didn’t feel like doing anything more than walking to the mailbox, I started to worry that my motivation was going to be MIA until I signed up for another event. (NOTE*** One of my so-called “sweat sisters” did, in fact, try to get me to sign up for a 50 mile run this November. But so far, I have held my ground with a firm…”I don’t think so.”)

Actually, on the drive home from Vermont last week, all of us talked about how much we were looking forward to sleeping in on Saturday mornings and not “having” to get up at 6:00am to go for long runs. That was on October 1. Today is October 9. We have “slept in” a total of ONE Saturday, and this afternoon we made plans to meet up at 7:30am this Saturday for a trail run. Why? Because we miss it that much. I think that after 12 years of practice, I might actually be a real runner now! I was really excited to go for my run today and I can’t wait for my 7:30am run on Saturday! And do you know what I’m training for???….NOTHING! 

I think this perfect fall weather has something to do with my reclaimed inspiration to be outside running on the dirt roads, but there’s more to it than just that. During my 4 mile run today I felt like me again. Nine days without running had already given me time to forget just how awesome I feel when I’m out there. Everything makes more sense when I’m running. And all of the overwhelming things that happened during the day are distant and not nearly as bad as they seemed at the time. I’m overcome with the confidence that if I can summon the energy to go for a run after a long day at work, I can do anything!

Fierce

So, I’m wondering if everyone has a “thing” that makes them feel awesome? And if so, why don’t they do it more often? It’s like we know the secret to how to be a better version of ourselves, but we don’t always have the energy to make it happen. And WHY don’t we have the energy to feel awesome?!?!  It’s a mystery. I think it goes back to the fear of not living up to our own expectations. Every effort we make towards our goals doesn’t feel awesome. Some days what is supposed to make us feel “awesome” will make us want to puke or cry or crawl or give up. But in the end, when we’re done for the day, we’ll still be glad we did it. Because it WILL make us a better version of us.

Be the best version of YOU!

 

The Journey is the Reward

On Sunday, I ran the Vermont 50, a 50K through the mountains of Vermont. To say that it was amazing is an understatement. 31 miles of the most beautiful landscape that I could have imagined, and I was blessed to run it with four of my favorite girlfriends by my side the whole way. It was a blast.

Was it hard? Yup. 5600 feet of climbing that we were no where near prepared for. But to me, it really didn’t matter. I had been looking forward to this journey for a while, and it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

From the second our car crossed the border into Vermont, we really just couldn’t believe how picturesque the state was. Every beautiful picture that you see of Vermont and its adorable covered bridges, stunning mountain views, quaint small towns, and brilliant fall colors are spot on accurate…through the WHOLE state! And getting to see it up close and personal through 31 miles of mostly private trails was an experience like no other.

The pre-race scene that we are used to at triathlons and road races is much different that what we experienced before the 50K ultra. Everyone seemed much more laid back than what we were used to in some ways, but in others, it was obvious that everyone else there was taking the race a bit more seriously than we were. I think it had something to do with the matching “Sparkle. Pounce.” tanks and sweatshirts that we were sporting. And the fact that we really weren’t taking the race seriously at all. Our day consisted of two goals. First, we wanted to finish. And second, we wanted to stick together through the whole race.

From the get-go I loved this race. As we jogged through the start line and up a small hill I already started joking about being out of breathe and noted that we had gone 0.22 miles. And as we reached the hill at mile 1, EVERYONE started walking up it. Not just the five of us, but every racer that I could see. It was awesome! It took the guess work out of the equation. These “hills” weren’t hills. They were mountains and no one was running up them. 

And that is how the race continued. I kept track of the distance and time, and we ran in between mountains, and walked up them. And the whole time, I noted how “pretty” everything was. And I kept reminding the girls how “pretty” everything was. And I can’t remember what mile it was that one of them told me they really didn’t need to hear how “pretty” everything was anymore, but I reminded them anyways. You’re welcome ladies! 

Note…I kept track of the distance. For some reason, these girls trusted me to be the sole barer of a Garmin to track our distance and average pace. Mua ha ha ha ha! I had a plan that worked like a charm…for a while.  Starting around mile 4, I kept telling them that we had gone a little less than we had really gone. This wasn’t a typical road race course where the miles are marked, so they had no idea. So, when we had run 7 miles I told them we were at 6.5. When we were up to 10 I told them we were almost at 9 miles. By the time we got to 18 miles I had them tricked into thinking that we had only gone 16.5. It was awesome!!! And then we hit the aid station at mile 18 that said we were at mile 18…. For a while I tried to get them to think the sign was wrong, but in the end I just told them that I had been lying to them all day. At first they were pretty mad, but I got them to admit that it felt pretty amazing to be 1.5 miles farther than they had thought. Mission accomplished.

In my opinion, the race flew by. There were parts when I could tell it was hard for some of the ladies to stick together, but for me, the journey was the reward. I was soaking in every moment of our time on that mountain. Did I want to be done? Yes. But did I realize that once I was done I wasn’t going to get to spend anymore time out on those beautiful trails? Yup. So, I was really in no rush. And I didn’t mind when we stopped for photos in the middle of the race. Or walked even when there wasn’t a hill. Because pictures like this don’t take themselves, and the action shots of us running just aren’t nearly as cute!

In the end we were able to reach both of our goals. We finished together. And we spread quite a bit of sparkle on the way. Lots of other racers commented on our “cute” tops and we were welcomed with a cheer into every aid station as the “Sparkle. Pounce.” team. We were pretty hard to miss.

So, will I do another 50K? I think most definitely. Will it top that one? Probably not. 
It's not the destination that matters. It's the journey.
That journey was my reward. And I loved every second of it!!!